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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2017 > Beware of Rental Scams When Apartment Hunting

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Beware of Rental Scams When Apartment Hunting

Looking for a great place to rent? Before sending any money, make sure your new landlord isn’t a con artist. Learn how to detect a phony rental posting designed only to steal your money.
In a typical rental scam, a con artist takes information from a legitimate real estate listing – such as the property’s address and photos – and reposts it as a place for rent on Craigslist or another website. The advertised rent is often low, and the potential renter is told to send a few hundred dollars via wire transfer or prepaid money card to secure the rental. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to track or to recover.
One northeast Ohio real estate company reported that someone was listing one of its homes on Craigslist by using the company’s photos and listing a price that was below-market rent. Reports to that company showed that the scammer was trying to convince unsuspecting renters to send a $1,000 “security deposit” to Texas. The scammer had even created an email address containing the name of a previous owner of the property.
Similarly, a southwest Ohio resident reported that his home – which was legitimately for sale through his real estate agent – was listed fraudulently online for rent at a rate of $700 per month.
In another case, a southern Ohio consumer found out that an apartment she wanted to rent was listed by a scam artist. Unfortunately, before she discovered the scam, she paid a $600 “deposit” to the con artist, who then asked her to send another $600 for “rent.”
To avoid rental scams, keep the following in mind: 
  • Be skeptical of ads offering low rates on houses or apartments. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Search your county auditor’s website for a record of who owns the property. Be aware that scam artists may pretend to be the true owner.
  • Don’t trust potential “landlords” or property owners who say they had to leave the country quickly for business or missionary work. Scam artists often make these claims. 
  • Don’t send any money until you’ve seen a property in person and/or verified that the person communicating with you is truly who he or she claims to be.
  • Beware of requests for wire transfers or prepaid money cards as payment methods especially if you have not seen the property. These are preferred methods for scammers, because once the money is sent it is nearly impossible to recover.
  • Be wary if you find rental ads offering properties that are listed for sale on other websites.
  • Copy and paste an image from an online listing into a search engine to determine if it has appeared elsewhere online.
  • Be wary of landlords or property managers who offer to rent property to you without gathering any information from you, such as your credit score or a background check. 
Real estate agents and sellers can help protect themselves and their listings by following these tips: 
  • Consider not listing the complete address of the property online. 
  • Watermark your photos. 
  • If you find a fraudulent posting based on your listing, notify the website where you found it, so the post can be flagged and removed.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.